Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Viva Varela

It's one of the most famous royal dresses of the last five years and it got its annual outing today when Queen Letizia accompanied her husband on an engagement to officially open the university year in Spain. That plum coloured Varela dress was on show again in Toledo and looking every bit the classic it's always been.

Queen Letizia of Spain in one of her most famous dresses
(photo casareal.es)

It's been a regular in Letizia's wardrobe for several years but it's best known as the dress she donned to meet Carla Bruni when the former French First Lady visited Madrid with her husband, Nicholas Sarkozy, in 2009.  The two women sashayed up the steps of the Zarzuela Palace together but it was the deep pink of the then princess that won that fashion day.

Carla's centre stage but her outfit is playing second fiddle to Letizia during their famous meeting

Half a decade on and now a queen, Letizia's favourite frock is still making waves. She chose it for her visit to Castilla-La Mancha University where she helped her husband inaugurate the new academic year for tertiary education.  The king made a speech and the couple listened to talks from some of the lecturers at the university. 

Dresses may come and go but Europe's newest queen always knows that when she needs it, she has a world famous look tucked away in her wardrobe. Designed by one of her favourite couturiers, it will no doubt be seen many more times - a real reason to say Viva Varela.

Royal blue is the colour

It's perhaps not surprising that Sofia Hellqvist has chosen royal blue for her first official portraits as a princess in waiting.  When a royal woman starts a new stage in her life or wants to make a statement on an important occasion, she usually chooses this very regal shade. The soon to be princess of Sweden joins a long list of ladies who have made royal blue THE colour.

A royal lady in waiting in royal blue - Sofia Hellqvist in one of her first official portraits
(photo Erika Gerdemark for royalcourt.se)

Her future sister-in-law, Crown Princess Victoria, chose royal blue for her own engagement announcement.  As she introduced Daniel Westling to the press after the official news broke in February 2009, the future queen was wearing deepest royal blue to set off her diamond ring.

If there's a royal engagement in Sweden then chances are the bride to be will wear royal blue at least once before the big day - Victoria and Daniel show off the ring in 2009

Deepest royal blue was also picked by Kate Middleton as she stepped firmly into the royal spotlight in November 2010 to announce her engagement to Prince William.  

All in blue - William and Kate match on their engagement day

It brought back memories of the first woman to wear the famous sapphire and diamond ring that matched the royal blue dress so well.  Lady Diana Spencer had chosen the same colour for her engagement outfit in 1981.

The Prince of Wales introduces Lady Diana Spencer on the day their engagement was announced in 1981

Queen Maxima chose it for the beginning of her husband's reign on April 30th 2013 when she wore a full length dress in royal blue as she watched Willem-Alexander take his oath.  The dress was later worn for some of the official portraits of the new king and queen.

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands in royal blue on the day of her husband's accession

Princess Beatrix was also in royal blue on the day of her abdication when she watched her son, and now king, take his oath wearing the same shade as the new queen.  Willem-Alexander and Maxima's three daughters - Amalia, Alexia and Ariane - were also in royal blue.

Three queens - one past, one present and one future - on a special day for the Dutch Royal Family

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians also chose the shade for the outfit she wore for her first official portraits as consort to the new king.  The full length royal blue dress was worn for photos released several weeks after the accession of King Philippe on July 21st 2013.

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians in an official portrait from the summer of 2013

Crown Princess Mary had chosen baby blue for her outfit at the christening of her eldest child, Prince Christian, in 2005 and baby pink for the baptism of her daughter, Princess Isabella, two years later. But when she and Crown Prince Frederik arrived for the christening of their twins, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine, the proud mummy was resplendent in very royal blue.

The Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark with their four children following the christening of twins, Vincent and Josephine

And always one to modernise, the new Queen of Spain chose royal blue for her first public appearance after her husband's accession but Letizia put the colour on a trousers suit.  For the engagement in Madrid just forty eight hours after Felipe became king, his consort was in a royal blue jacket and matching trousers - a regal and fashion conscious start to the reign and yet another instance in which Europe's royal ladies have chosen royal blue for the big events.

Royal blue for a new queen - Letizia of Spain in Madrid at the start of her husband's reign

Here comes the bride...and groom

Prince Carlo Philip and his fiancee, Sofia Hellqvist, have released their first official portraits since their surprise engagement announcement at the end of June and show themselves to be the very image of calm composed coolness as the preparations for their wedding get under way.

Carl Philip and Sofia in a new official portrait
(photo Erika Gerdemark for kungahuset.se)

The decades to come will bring many more official photos but the soon to be princess shows she's ready for the close ups as she stands smiling at the camera in this first foray into royal portraiture with her husband to be.  Wearing royal blue and with impeccable hair and make up, Sofia takes another step into her new life.

Sofia of Sweden in her first official royal portrait
(photo Erika Gerdemark for kungahuset.se)

Of course, smiling for the camera in a palatial corridor or drawing room is no problem for her prince who has been posing for these portraits since he was a child. But these photos are a first chance for Carl Philip to introduce Sofia to the world of royal snapshots. 

He's done this before - Prince Carl Philip strikes a pose
(photo Erika Gerdemark for kungahuset.se)

They have a little while to wait for their formal wedding photos as they are due to marry at some point in 2015 although the exact date and the location of the marriage aren't yet known. But this royal couple in the making now have some very royal images of their own to mark the start of a royal life together.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The new kings and the President

Another new king, another meeting with the President of the United States of America. Just like the two men who became monarchs in 2013, Felipe of Spain has met the President within months of taking the throne. The latest meeting between a new king and Barack Obama came in New York where Felipe was addressing the United Nations Plenary.

King Felipe VI with Barack Obama in New York on September 23rd 2014
(photo casareal.es)

Their meeting was one of several that King Felipe held with other heads of state that afternoon but it was easily the most high profile. The two men held talks with advisers as well as posing for photos that mark another major moment in the young reign of Felipe VI.

Another image of Felipe VI and Barack Obama during their meeting
(photo casareal.es)

King Philippe of the Belgians has met the US President several times and has hosted him in Belgium as well in the fifteen months since his own reign began.  The two men met in March 2014 when the President travelled to Belgium for the EU and NATO summits. They met again in June at commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

President Obama meets King Philippe on his arrival in Belgium in March 2014
(photo @MonarchieBelge Twitter)

The King also met the new King of the Netherlands during his March visit to Europe. Willem-Alexander and Maxima hosted Mr Obama at a dinner as the President took part in the Nuclear Security Summit that took place in the Nethelands.

The King and Queen of the Netherlands with Barack Obama in March 2014

And now the President has said hello to Europe's newest king, Felipe VI.  His meetings with the longest reigning monarch on the continent, Elizabeth II, have made headlines and this encounter didn't get nearly as much international attention. But for a head of state at the start of his tenure, this audience had huge significance for King Felipe and has provided the stand out image of his visit to New York.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Lessons for Letizia

It's their debut on the American stage as monarchs and King Felipe and Queen Letizia have got straight down to business.  No sooner had they arrived in America than they were on engagements.

Queen Letizia takes her seat in class on a visit to New York
(@marielasalgadof Twitter)

Letizia began her American tour with a trip to the Two Bridges School in Harlem which teaches in both English and Spanish.  On her visit she met students and teachers and heard about their bilingual programmes.

Queen Letiza gets lots of smiles on her arrival in New York
(@glazerjessica Twitter)

Meanwhile, King Felipe VI was at the Institute of International Education where he took part in an event for recipients of the Fulbright scholarships.  They have just been awarded the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for International Co-operation. 

King Felipe makes a speech during his visit to the Institute of International Education in New York
(photo casareal.es)

The royal couple are in New York for the Climate Summit 2014 and the opening of the General Debate of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.  King Felipe will address the UN as part of their visit.  The trips today were the beginning of three very big days for the newest king and consort in Europe and it all began with lessons for Letizia.

Sunshine and smiles

If day one was all about not being Kate, by day two of the Duke of Cambridge's two of Malta the sunshine and smiles had taken over. There was a mix of formal and relaxed as William covered for his wife again and the big beaming grin seemed to say he was having a great time doing it.

The Duke of Cambridge meets crowds in Malta on day two of his trip to the island
(photo @alexmorleyjames Twitter)

The day began with a service at the Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta where the duke joined celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Malta's independence.  The duke was also given a formal welcome there with a salute from the Guard of Honour.  And there was a real cultural treat for the duke who was given a chance to view Caravaggio's Beheading of St John the Baptist.

The Duke of Cambridge viewing the famous Caravaggio work
(photo @Clarence House Twitter)

William then ventured on to Birgu where he heard about youth projects and spent some time at a youth centre where he joined in playing video games and had a go at table football.

The Duke of Cambridge joins in a game of table football in Birgu
(photo @Clarence House Instagram)

The Queen's links with Malta were a huge part of this tour and the final day of William's visit included a boat trip on a vessel sailed on by his grandmother in 1949 when she lived on the island as a young wife.  And then it was time for tea as the duke joined dozens of people at a garden party given at the British High Commission.

Time for tea - the Duke of Cambridge at a party in Malta at the end of his tour
(photo @HCRobLuke Twitter)

And then it was time for the Duke of Cambridge to leave Malta and return home. He is beginning the training for his new role with the East Anglian Air Ambulance Service and helping look after his wife who had to miss this tour because of the severe morning sickness she is suffering from in the early stages of her second pregnancy. It meant she had to miss her first solo overseas tour but judging by the sunshine and smiles on day two, William really didn't mind stepping in for her on this one.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Royal fashion, September 20th 2014

Royal fashion is all about pictures, not words. So every week there will be some of the best photos of what Europe's royals have been wearing in the seven days just gone.  Here we go....

Dress of the week, what a surprise.  It's Victoria of Sweden looking stunning. Again. The autumn makeover continues.

Greek Royalty

British Royalty

Norwegian Royalty

Swedish Royalty

Royals on social media, September 20th 2014

The official social media channels of Europe's royal houses have been filled with a wide range of topics and images in the week just gone.  There have been state events, sweet little hugs and some serious partying going on.  Here are the highlights of the week just gone.

Warm welcomes

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians got a very warm welcome when she arrived in Liege on September 16th and the cuddle she got from a young fan featured in an image shared on the monarchy's official Twitter feed.

He might have been a stand in but there was still a good reception for the Duke of Cambridge when he began a two day tour of Malta on September 20th. His wife, Kate, had originally been lined up to represent the Queen on the visit which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the island's independence. But in the week doctors decided she was still too unwell with severe morning sickness to travel. William spent most of his first day apologising for not being Kate but there were plenty thrilled to see him with Clarence House sharing some photos on its official Twitter feed.

And lots of school children were very pleased to see King Felipe and Queen Letizia when they dropped into their classes in Pereiro de Aguiar as the academic year got under way. The Royal Household shared a video o the trip on its official You Tub channel.  

The big moments of the year

One of the big events of the Dutch Royal Year featured on its official social media channels. Prince's Day is traditionally involves a grand procession in the Golden Carriage to the Knight's Hall where the monarch reads the Speech from the Throne setting out the government's plans for the coming year. The Royal Household tweeted infographics of those plans and shared a video of the speech itself on its You Tube Channel.

One of the big royal stories of the year has been the success of the Invictus Games which were organised by Prince Harry and which saw 400 wounded service men and women from 13 countries take part in events over four days. Clarence House shared a video, on Twitter, of Prince Harry's closing speech.

Another major event of 2014 was the referendum which asked the people of Scotland whether their country should be independent. The Queen issued a statement after the result - No won with 55% of the vote - in which she spoke of everyone respecting the decision. As well as being released in traditional ways the message was also tweeted by the official British Monarchy feed.

All in a day's work

The day job was the focus of a visit by King Philippe of the Belgians to employment organisation Actiris Brussels.  He was shown how young people are matched to potential employers - as seen on the Monarchie Belge Twitter feed.

Prince Daniel of Sweden learned more about an unusual day job when he visited a guitar manfacturers with images shared on the official Facebook page of the Swedish Monarchy.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Being Mr Cambridge

It was billed as one of the royal events of the year but when its star had to pull out due to ill health, there's no doubting the sighs of disappointment that followed. And now it has turned into a high profile but not top billing royal engagement. The visit by the Duke of Cambridge to Malta to take part in celebrations marking the country's fiftieth anniversary of independence is attracting lots of attention - but not nearly as much as the same trip would have received if Kate had been there as planned.  This was meant to be the Duchess of Cambridge's first solo overseas tour but morning sickness meant William had to step in at the last minute as doctors advised her not to travel.  And while the reception is warm, there's not the buzz there might be for the duchess.  William, on arrival in Valletta, is learning what it's like being Mr Cambridge.

The Duke of Cambridge meets the daughters of the Prime Minister of Malta
(photo @TelevisionMalta Twitter)

The Duke of Cambridge apologised several times that it was him who had ended up representing the Queen on this important visit and not his wife.  The first engagement was a meeting with the President of Malta, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, at her official residence which will also be William's home for the two days he is on the island.  And when the president said she hoped that the prince would return with his wife, Prince George and their new baby the Duke of Cambridge told her that the island might not survive his eldest son who is a 'bit of a tearaway'. There was also a chance for a traditional royal act as William planted a tree in the gardens of San Anton's Palace.

The Duke of Cambridge meets the President of Malta
(@TelevisionMalta Twitter)

Prince George got plenty of presents on day one of dad's tour. And one of the most high profile was a grey teddy presented to the duke by the daughters of Malta's Prime Minister. Etoile and Soleil also gave William some flowers before he went in for an audience with their dad, Dr Joseph Muscat, and mum, Michelle.  As the afternoon sun began to sink in the sky, the duke moved to St George's Square in Valletta where he saw some of the nation's history brought to life during the In Guardia Parade.

Some of the historical re-enactment watched by the Duke of Cambridge and shared by Clarence House on its Instagram page

There was more history on the agenda as Prince William paid a visit to the National Library where he saw a selection of some of documents kept there including letters from George I and Henry VIII and the original citation by which the duke's great grandfather, George VI, awarded the George Cross to the island in World War Two.

The Duke of Cambridge at the National Library in Valletta
(photo @Clarence House Twitter)

But what everyone really wanted to know what how Kate was getting on and as he greeted crowds outside the library, William told them that she was 'so-so'.  The Duchess of Cambridge is thought to be around eight weeks pregnant and is still suffering from the effects of severe morning sickness.

The Duke of Cambridge greets crowds outside the National Library in Valletta
(photo @Clarence House Twitter)

The duchess is said to be very disappointed not to get the chance to represent the Queen on such a high profile visit.  Malta has a particular significance for the Queen as she spent time living there between 1949 and 1951 when Prince Philip was stationed there with the Royal Navy. And while the crowds have been keen to see the future king, some did say they were disappointed not to get a glimpse of Kate.  William's last engagement of the day was at Upper Barakka Gardens where he took part in special celebrations for the island's fiftieth anniversary.

The Duke of Cambridge arrives at Upper Barrakka Gardens 
(@Clarence House Twitter)

The second day of the tour is just as packed with engagements and by then everyone will have got used to William being on duty rather than Kate. But this trip has confirmed to William, and to everyone else, what they probably already knew. When it comes to the Cambridges, it's the lady of the house that everyone wants to see.